Titans Star Alan Ritchson on Moving From American Idol to Superhero, Including His Role in Reacher
January 30, 2022
The Titans star Alan Ritchson, 39, segues from TV’s superhero series to the action crime drama Reacher (Feb. 4 on Amazon Prime Video). Ritchson plays the hard-hitting former military police investigator of the title who is arrested for a murder he didn’t commit and takes on a small town to prove they have the wrong guy.
Jack Reacher seems to be somewhat of a mythical figure.
He does represent this larger-than-life, almost superhero quality in the wish fulfillment he provides us as a culture. This mysterious stranger sweeps in and takes care of our problems and brings justice where maybe the law couldn’t or is too slow, so he does represent a mythical quality.
Did having a dad who was a U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant inspire your performance?
Growing up and being around soldiers and enlisted military men, there’s a formality to the way that they greet each other, the way that they stand, the salute, the handshake. There is a posture that my father carried that was an easy translation into Reacher’s body language. It is something that I only see in military men and women. I wanted to honor that.
Tom Cruise got flak for being too short for the Reacher role in the 2012 movie. Do you think part of your casting was because you’re a big guy?
Reacher is a bit of a unicorn; he is so highly intelligent, but he also has this brutish physique. We were trying to get that right. I usually walk around a little lighter. I spent about eight months putting on a little size naturally and eating a lot of food.
Is Reacher an example of don’t judge a book by its cover, because he is this big, strapping guy, but no one realizes—at first—how good he was at his job, and how good he is at solving these crimes?
Reacher is always one step ahead. It makes it a lot of fun watching him unravel somebody. It is mysterious. He is also fallible. There are moments when he gets it wrong too, where he realizes that he’s ended up where he shouldn’t have. So there is that superhero quality, but he’s not invincible. [Executive producer] NickSantora is really responsible for how we captured that side of Reacher on the screen.
In the books, there is almost a narrative device where we hear Reacher’s thought process. To show that onscreen is a little more difficult. Nick did an amazing job adapting that concept to film, where we get to hear his thought process out loud but in a way that doesn’t feel like exposition. We put a lot of thought into that.
Reacher is a bit of a wanderer now that he’s out of the Army. He says he wants to see the country that he defended. Is there any of that wanderer in you? Have you been all around the United States?
Oh, sure. That probably has something to do with the fact that I’m an actor. I’m a little restless. I get bored easily and I want to see what’s out there. I’ve been everywhere. I’ve nearly filled up my second passport now and I’ve been all over the United States fortunately. I travel a lot. For my job, I get to go places where people wouldn’t think of going. In that way, I think we’re very similar.
I started running away from home when I was 16, 17 years old. I left home for good when I was 18 and never looked back. I think there are some people that are just built to wander and explore, like Reacher. I think I share that quality.
There is a running gag with him eating fries and cheeseburgers that I don’t remember from the books. Was that a special add to give humor to the TV series?
I think there are moments peppered throughout the book franchise where you see him—black coffee is a huge part and almost a character in itself in the book. But also, there are moments when he is eating ice cream. He is downing three liters of water in a bar at a time. He has very unusual dietary habits. If you look closely, I think there is a nod to that in the books. Adapting that to screen, it was easy for us to fill a plate with a trough of food. He eats whatever he wants. It really mirrors my own life, because I do have a problem with eating whatever I want, so it was fun to play that. I got to eat a lot of food.
Your introduction to TV was on American Idol. Were you initially interested in being a singer rather than an actor?
Music was my first love. Singing was something I felt decent at, and it felt like it just made sense to pursue that. I had never thought about acting. American Idol took me to L.A. for the first time, where I was exposed to acting. I asked someone if they could help me get auditions and they did, and I started working.
Do you still sing?
I had to pick at some point. I was on a show. I had to decide: Am I going to keep pursuing music or do what I’m doing professionally now? So I left the music behind. I don’t sing very much. There was a moment on Titans where I got to sing. We did a karaoke episode, and it was a lot of fun to bring that back. Marrying the film and the music has always been a goal.